Retail giant Tesco has been in the media boasting about the increase in sales of their twin buggies. Store bosses say demand for double pushchairs have soared by 90 per cent since 2007.
They claim this is down to the rising numbers of twins being born to women going through IVF. Apparently, the number of twins born in the last three years has risen 10 per cent, whilst the number of women undergoing fertility treatment such as IVF in the same period rose by nearly a third.
Some newspapers which reported Tesco’s story however falsely said that IVF is where more than one embryo is implanted to increase the chances of success.
But this isn’t necessarily the case anymore. Under new HFEA guidelines – fertility clinics – whether private or NHS – actively have to reduce the chance of having twins and triplets by transferring only one embryo per IVF cycle in good prognosis patients.
This doesn’t mean that people undergoing IVF will stop having multiple births. It is up to consultants, in discussion with patients, to decide on whether a single embryo transfer is likely to result in pregnancy. We use many different factors to reach this decision, such as age, medical history and embryo quality. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach.
For example, in the case of younger women, who are therefore more likely to get pregnant from IVF, using one embryo is the right choice. But for older women, multiple transfer is still the best option because they need to increase their chances of getting pregnant due to their age.
There is a common mistaken belief that transferring two or three embryos doubles or triples a patient’s chance of having a baby – but dependent on age and medical history, transferring one embryo does not decrease the ultimate chances of having a baby, if the embryo is of high quality.
And if there are multiple good quality embryos, these can be frozen and stored for future use to try and have more children, meaning there would be no need to go through ovarian stimulation and egg collection again.
IVF is not a quick way of getting a large family in one go. Multiple births carry serious increased health risks for both the mother and the babies, which is one of the reasons that the HFEA brought in new rules to reduce the twin and triplet rate, which they are hoping will be as low as ten per cent in the next couple of years.